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An Experimental Evaluation of Readers' Perceptions of Media Bias
Unformatted Document Text:  Media Bias - 10 their personal politics: whether they self-described as conservative, moderate or liberal, and whether they typically voted for Republicans, Democrats, or about equal. Conducting the test We recruited 146 students from introductory communication classes offered at a large, northeastern public university. Because the class fulfills a university-wide general studies requirement, the sample contained students from majors throughout the university. 61% (89) of the students were female, and the majority (105, 72%) lower division (sophomore or first year) students. All were compensated with extra credit in the course for their participation. In order to minimize random variations in responses, we asked the participants to meet in a specific room (the same for all participants) at scheduled times. The 12 different forms of questionnaire (two levels of cued-state by three topics by two different orders of paragraphs) were shuffled together so they would be distributed randomly and evenly across all of the groups. The questionnaires were administered by confederates who were blind to the expectations of the study. Results Before considering the tests of our hypotheses and research question, we wanted to examine the participants’ immediate response to the dummy articles they had read. Semantic differential items We used the biased/balanced semantic differential item as a check of our cued-status manipulation. Participants who were told that the article they were about to read was potentially biased were more likely to describe the article as "biased", t(144) = 3.41, p < .001, which indicates that the manipulation of cued-status was successful. Participants who were more likely to describe the article as biased were less likely to describe it as fair (r = - .452, p < .001), nice (r = -.293, p < .001) or accurate (r = -.198, p < .01). This last is of the most interest: while the association of bias with reduced fairness and niceness is clearly in accord with the principles of journalistic ethics, the finding that stories perceived to be more biased are also concluded to be more inaccurate should be cause for some concern. For instance, in this case, being fictitious, the stories were equally inaccurate regardless of their amount of bias! It is worth noting that the correlation between perceived bias and perceived accuracy is subject to a second interpretation: that people perceive inaccurate stories as biased. However, readers are rarely in a position to evaluate the

Authors: D'Alessio, Dave.
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Media Bias - 10
their personal politics: whether they self-described as conservative, moderate or liberal, and whether they typically
voted for Republicans, Democrats, or about equal.
Conducting the test
We recruited 146 students from introductory communication classes offered at a large, northeastern public
university. Because the class fulfills a university-wide general studies requirement, the sample contained students from
majors throughout the university. 61% (89) of the students were female, and the majority (105, 72%) lower division
(sophomore or first year) students. All were compensated with extra credit in the course for their participation.
In order to minimize random variations in responses, we asked the participants to meet in a specific room (the
same for all participants) at scheduled times. The 12 different forms of questionnaire (two levels of cued-state by three
topics by two different orders of paragraphs) were shuffled together so they would be distributed randomly and evenly
across all of the groups. The questionnaires were administered by confederates who were blind to the expectations of
the study.
Results
Before considering the tests of our hypotheses and research question, we wanted to examine the participants’
immediate response to the dummy articles they had read.
Semantic differential items
We used the biased/balanced semantic differential item as a check of our cued-status manipulation.
Participants who were told that the article they were about to read was potentially biased were more likely to describe
the article as "biased", t(144) = 3.41, p < .001, which indicates that the manipulation of cued-status was successful.
Participants who were more likely to describe the article as biased were less likely to describe it as fair (r = -
.452, p < .001), nice (r = -.293, p < .001) or accurate (r = -.198, p < .01). This last is of the most interest: while the
association of bias with reduced fairness and niceness is clearly in accord with the principles of journalistic ethics, the
finding that stories perceived to be more biased are also concluded to be more inaccurate should be cause for some
concern. For instance, in this case, being fictitious, the stories were equally inaccurate regardless of their amount of
bias!
It is worth noting that the correlation between perceived bias and perceived accuracy is subject to a second
interpretation: that people perceive inaccurate stories as biased. However, readers are rarely in a position to evaluate the


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